Former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie thinks there is a silver bullet which will turn our nation into a politicians’ republic. It’s direct election of the president.
In his regular column in The Australian on 17 November 2011,“So long as the Queen reigns, an Australian republic's on ice “, Mr. Beattie says that the “ last serious republican debate was at the Constitutional Convention in Canberra in 1998, followed by a referendum which failed most spectacularly, especially in Queensland.”
He claims that he had supported the Irish model of the direct election of the president. ”In my view, Australians are not going to trust politicians to appoint the president; they want to have a say. Those who argue otherwise misjudge the Australian psyche.”
This is curious. Instead of siding with the “Real Republicans” at the 1998 Convention where he was a delegate, he voted for the parliamentary model.
Has he forgotten?
Mr.Beattie, forget about it. It's not going to happen. We are already a republic, a crowned republic. The preamble says we are an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth (the more English word for republic) under the Crown, which has evolved into the Australian Crown. Get over it Mr. Beattie. We know you have to fill your weekly column – the night mare of all columnists. Write about something real.
…. flirting with direct election…
Me. Beattie writes that in January 2006, Gough Whitlam wrote to him "I now agree with you that Australians will only vote for a republic if they can elect the president. I make two suggestions to you. The rights and duties of the president must be set out in the Constitution, as they are in the constitution of Ireland. The head of state could still be called the governor-general; as the USA shows, governor can be a republican term and need not be a monarchist term."
Some but not all republicans have followed this, most notably Mr. Turnbull when he decided to leave parliament. He dropped this when he changed his mind and stayed on.
But there is still a strong core of conservative republicans who are steadfastly opposed to direct election, and this includes republicans prominent in politics and the media.
…head of state…
Mr. Beattie confirms the Governor-General is Head of State, and says that under a republic " the head of state could still be called the Governor-General."
As Thomas Flynn observes," For a book that nobody is supposed to have even heard of, never mind read, Sir David Smith’s Head of State has had quite an influence."
…blank cheque plebiscite..
Mr. Beattie says “… it makes sense to have a two-stage process on the way to a republic. The first step is to ask Australians if they want a republic. If they do, step two puts the models to choose from in a referendum.”
This strategy is so transparen. It is of course to get a blank cheque from the people in the first plebiscite, and also to paper over serious divisions among republicans which remain as strong as they were in 1999.
He ignores the fact that some significant republicans are totally opposed to the second plebiscite because they oppose direct election. In fact they are so opposed they prefer the constitutional monarchy to direct election.
Not only has Mr. Beattie forgotten how he voted in 1999, he has also forgotten to look at the polls.
According to the polls, the first plebisicte would fail. The republicans have commissioned their own poll from UMR which indicates higher support than the other polls. But this is still less than the percentage needed to win even the first plebiscite. UMR seems to consistently show higher support than other polls, including the new more left-of- centre pollster, Essential.
As republican Professor Greg Craven warns, a direct election model will result in devestating defeat for any politicians’ republic.